By Daniel Friedman
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As far as professional sports is concerned, New York is the biggest stage in the country and arguably on the planet. Stars tend to want to play here, even despite the pressure that comes with the territory. Here are the 20 current athletes in the region with the most star power:
Honorable Mention: Brook Lopez (Nets), Nick Mangold (Jets), Victor Cruz (Giants), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (Jets), Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
20. Patrik Elias, Devils
He might just be the most underrated star player in the NHL, not to mention the N.Y./N.J. metro area. Elias played a major role in a handful of Stanley Cup runs and has been an incredibly consistent point producer throughout his entire career.
19. Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Teixeira’s health has always been an issue, as have his slow starts. That said, he helped the Yankees win a World Series in 2009, and he recorded at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs during each of his first three seasons in the Bronx.
18. Martin St. Louis, Rangers
A relatively new arrival, St. Louis slowly but surely made his mark as a key piece to the Rangers’ puzzle, coming through in the playoffs amidst the news that his mother had passed away. He was the NHL’s leading scorer a year ago and is one of the elite players in the game.
17. Thierry Henry, Red Bulls
New York isn’t necessarily known as a soccer town, but that’s starting to change. The sport is increasing in popularity, as are the Red Bulls, and Henry — a former Barcelona and Arsenal star — is a major reason why.
16. Rick Nash, Rangers
Nash came with much fanfare, though the results haven’t been good enough. He’s a star presence and therefore garners a ton of attention either way. That’s what happens when you’re a five-time All-Star and former Maurice Richard Trophy (most goals) winner who comes to the Big Apple.
15. Kevin Garnett, Nets
Along with Paul Pierce, Garnett signified the new era of Brooklyn basketball and the swagger that came with it. He’s past his prime, but his presence alone is big enough to make this list.
14. CC Sabathia, Yankees
Sabathia may never be an impact pitcher again, but fans will always remember his role in helping the Yanks win it all in ’09.
13. Jaromir Jagr, Devils
One of the better players in NHL history, he’s left quite a legacy around here. Jagr was outstanding as a Ranger and is still kicking at age 42, having racked up 67 points for the Devils last season.
12. Deron Williams, Nets
“D-Will” hasn’t quite been up to par recently, but he’s still viewed as a star-caliber player and the fans expect him to perform like one.
11. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
Tanaka made quite an impression before going down with an injury, but one thing is for certain: The man can pitch.
10. Matt Harvey, Mets
You can find him at Rangers games or hanging out with Jimmy Fallon. You can even find him hanging out at Rangers games with Jimmy Fallon. He’s recovering from surgery but was the most exciting young pitcher in baseball up to that point. Hopefully, for Mets fans, he will be again next year.
9. Amar’e Stoudemire, Knicks
Never mind his performance or health — Stoudemire is the reason why the Knicks are relevant again. He signed with them at a time when they were struggling to attract players of his caliber.
8. John Tavares, Islanders
Tavares is the face of the Islanders and one of the top forwards in the NHL right now. Even if you’re not a hockey fan, you’ve probably heard of him. He’s one of the best athletes in New York and, when the Isles move to Brooklyn in 2015, he’ll really be in the spotlight.
7. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
Arguably the best goaltender in the NHL, Lundqvist is the biggest reason why the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Final this year. He’s approaching Mike Richter status in NYC.
6. Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
Whether they’re criticizing him for his selfish play or praising him, New York sports fans can’t stop talking about Melo. He’s the premier basketball player in this city — love him or hate him.
5. Martin Brodeur, Devils
Though technically a free agent now, Brodeur was a Devil his entire career and will always be remembered as one. Some will tell you he’s the best goaltender in NHL history, but even those who feel otherwise would probably admit that he’s in the top three or top five.
4. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
A-Rod is on this list for all the wrong reasons. But regardless, his situation is often a topic of conversation in this town.We’ll never leave him alone and will always be watching for what he does next.
3. David Wright, Mets
There haven’t been many bright spots for the Mets the past few years, but Wright has stuck with the program through thick and thin. He’s a star player, a fan favorite and a highly-respected athlete in New York.
2. Eli Manning, Giants
When you give NYC two Super Bowl parades, people are going to like you. More importantly, they’re going to raise their expectations and demand perfection from you. Around here, Eli Manning is football.
1. Derek Jeter, Yankees
He just passed Carl Yaztrzemski on the all-time hits list, as if the rest of his career accomplishments weren’t enough. He was the homegrown star, the captain of the Yankees during a golden age and a model citizen. Jeter is the most iconic sports figure in New York, and there’s nothing else I can say that properly accentuates his impact.
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